Sometimes, trying to balance our hormones, can be like trying to balance on a tightrope.
Did You Know That Periods Aren’t Meant To Be Painful?
It seems that today, painful periods, PMS, heavy periods, irregular periods, PCOS, mood swings, menopausal hot flushes, and mood changes are now just considered an everyday occurrence and to be the normal state. Did you know that it is not normal to have a painful period? That we should just wake up and have had it begun without any pain, any breast tenderness or changes to our mood?
Many of the above symptoms occur according to Chinese Medicine because our body is not functioning correctly or at its true potential. We view the body as being out of balance and from the state of imbalance, we have the chance to rebalance both the hormones of our body, our body’s brain chemistry and to correct the flow and function of the body’s energetic system (QI) and move blood circulation. By addressing these issues, we rebalance, restore and encourage hormonal balance within the body.
Hormones have a profound effect on our bodies’ mental, physical and emotional health.
But first, before we even delve into unbalance within the body, what is a hormone and why is it so important to our health?
WHAT IS A HORMONE?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced in the glands by our endocrine system. Hormones travel through our bloodstream to get to our tissues and our organs. Our hormones deliver chemical messages to the organs that then tell the organs what to do and when and how to do it. Hormones are essential for regulating most of our bodily processes and they have a wide range of actions.
Hormones assist us to maintain and to regulate –
- Our metabolism and appetites
- Sleep cycles
- Our heartrates
- Our reproductive cycles and sexual function
- Our body temperature
- Our general growth and development
- Our moods and stress levels
When are hormones are in balance – our body is in balance and is functioning at its optimal state. Our endocrine system can produce the exact amount of each hormone needed to enable our body to function in its optimal and balanced state. Our body can optimize all bodily processes precisely and in accordance with our body’s needs.
However, in today’s fast-paced society, increased stress, processed foods, chemically enhanced food, social media, night shift, and frequent travel all affect our bodies’ abilities to maintain our hormonal health. There has been a major increase in hormonal imbalance in our society over the last 20 years.
In addition, certain hormones decline with age and some people can experience this decline in hormones worse than others.
WHAT CAUSES HORMONES TO BECOME UNBALANCED?
Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream. Due to their essential role in our bodies’ major processes, even a small hormonal imbalance can have a profound effect on how our body functions, affecting our sleep, weight, appetite, moods, concentration, reproductive function, our libido, and our digestion.
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance can include:
- Heavy, irregular and painful periods
- Endometriosis / PCOS
- Hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, and mood swings
- Vaginal Dryness
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain / Trouble losing weight
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Acne before and after menstruation
- Low libido – both men and women
- Loss of erections / erectile dysfunction
- Loss of interest in sex
SO HOW DO WE REBALANCE HORMONES?
From a Chinese medicine perspective – we don’t just balance hormones to bring the body back into balance. We focus on what is out of balance within the body – we do this from your intake form, asking about your history, sleep, stress levels, digestion, energy and much more. We also use our tongue and pulse diagnosis to form a specific and individualised diagnosis for you. Based on these findings, we then use a combination of treatment to help you rebalance your hormones. This may include Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Diet and exercise therapy and much more.
Acupuncture may assist hormone balancing by its action on the brain. Studies have shown, that when a needle is placed into an acupuncture point, certain areas of the brain light up on scans. Acupuncture acts upon the brain by working on the neurotransmitters of the brain and by enabling the brain to release neurochemicals and other neurotransmitters, which then act on certain organs and glands of our body. The brain also releases feel-good hormones – called serotonin.
The ability for acupuncture to affect the brain enables the acupuncturist to assist with rebalancing the chemical messages between the endocrine system and the body – working on the HPO axis.
Acupuncture reinforces the body’s own healing ability; we use acupuncture as a tool to tell your body where it needs to focus.
Our Herbal medicine is used in conjunction with acupuncture to reinforce the action of the acupuncture and assist with rebalancing the organs that are out of balance within the body. We also address any blockages in blood flow and Qi flow within the body, which enables hormones to flow freely to their required area.
5 TIPS TO ASSIST WITH HORMONE IMBALANCES:
1. CONSUME PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL
Consuming protein at every meal helps you to feel full and acts on the hunger hormone ghrelin – which suppresses the appetite. It is suggested that with every meal you try and consume 20-30g of protein. Protein is essential in providing our body with amino acids, which help to maintain bone, skin, and muscle in our bodies.
2. REDUCE STRESS LEVELS
Try and manage your stress levels. As we have mentioned in many previous articles, when we get stressed our body stimulates the “flight or fight” response, which causes adrenaline to flood into our system. This causes increased heart rate, increase in blood pressure and an increase in anxiety over a long period of time. It also affects the stress hormone cortisol. If cortisol remains high in our body – it can lead to sleep issues, weight gain, anxiety, and fatigue. Studies have shown that devoting just 10-15 minutes a day to mindfulness and practicing meditation, or doing yoga, tai chi, or getting a quick massage assists with decreasing the level of cortisol in our body and reducing the amount of adrenaline being reduced by the adrenal glands. Try and make sure that you take time out each day to practices one of these – it will help you a lot!
3. DRINK GREEN TEA
Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks to consume. It assists to increase the metabolism – 3 cups of green tea can see you burn an extra 70 calories a day. From a Chinese Medicine viewpoint – it is also cooling on the body, is used to move stuck Qi and it also contains numerous antioxidants which may decrease insulin sensitivity.
Green tea has been linked to increased insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels for people who are overweight, obese or have diabetes. (1)
It is also a healthy replacement for tea and coffee.
4. GET ENOUGH HIGH-QUALITY SLEEP
We have spoken about this before and for us Mums and Dads and single parents, getting good high-quality sleep is not always possible. However, we do require sleep to assist our body to heal and repair itself and during sleep, many hormones are made. Most adults require between 7-9 hours sleep a night. Getting the required amount of sleep also aids us to maintain a healthy weight and to keep our digestive hormones balanced. More sleep also assists with weight loss and suppressing the appetite as we are not looking for high energy foods such as we do when sleep deprived.
It is essential that we not only get a minimum of 7 hours a sleep a night, but that the quality of the sleep is high quality as well. 8 hours of good quality sleep are needed for your brain to go through its 5 stages of sleep and to produce the growth hormone as well. To maintain an optimal hormone balance for the body – aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
5. CONSUME EGGS, FATTY FISH AND DECREASE PROCESSED FOODS.
If you’re like me – you eat eggs every day. I consume eggs from the TCM viewpoint that they are a “qi” tonic. They help to make energy in our body and they also provide us with carbohydrates, protein, and good fat. They give us low GI energy and they keep us full. They suppress the hormone ghrelin and cause lower insulin levels in the body after consuming. It is important to eat both the egg white and the egg yolk as we need both to assist us to balance the hormone that controls our appetite.
Consuming Fatty fish gives us the essential fats that we need – omega 3,6 and 9 which are all essential in the production of hormones. Consuming fatty fish twice a week has in some studies shown that they can decrease the stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may help lower cortisol and epinephrine, increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin levels in obese and insulin-resistant individuals.
In fact, hormones are made from fat. If we do not consume fat in our diet – we can cause hormonal imbalances to occur. Of course, we recommend the good fats – nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, avocado, fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel.
Reduce your intake of processed foods and foods high in sugar as these cause increases in insulin and affect our appetite regulation as well. When stressed – try and aim for healthier foods – nuts and seeds, green tea, jasmine tea, eggs, fish.
There are hormone balancing diets around and they are all based on the above tips. Including more leafy green foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, protein, eggs and fish are all part of the diet. Diet will differ depending on your circumstances and I recommend consulting your health care practitioner before starting any new diet regime.
If you would like to know more about how we can assist you, or if you have any questions, please contact us at rebalancetcm.com.
To book an appointment please click here: https://elthamhealthandwellness.com.au/book-an-appointment/
Written by Dr Julia Bartrop – busy mum of 2 and Acupuncturist.